APOPKA, FL — The Lobster Zone crane once again has been targeted by PETA, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, which charges that the “machine turns torture and death into a game.” This time, the animal rights activists called attention to a machine in Denver, CO, following a complaint from a restaurant customer. See story in Denver Post here.
According to Nick Pappas, marketing vice-president of the Lobster Zone Inc., which manufactures the crane, PETA rarely targets the company. Rather, its members sporadically alert local news media about their objections to one of their distributors’ machines on location. As for patrons, he estimates fewer than two out of 8,000 who come into contact with the machine might lodge a complaint. “The numbers are very low,” he told VT.
Generally, the Apopka, FL-based company does not respond to PETA protests, opting instead to allow the negative publicity to disappear quickly. In those few cases in which the company is directly attacked, it will issue a press release that dismisses “misrepresented facts” about the machines and lobsters. “We have found that more than 85% of online bloggers responding to recent stories have favored the machine and would love to play it.”
The Denver Post reporter investigating the story at J.D.’s Bait Shop wrote: “…I found eight lobsters, peacefully spread out in as pristine a tank as I’d seen anywhere… If you are a lobster, this has got to be one of the safest places.”
Pappas said the company is dedicated to ensuring that its vending equipment operates reliably and maintains an uncontaminated saltwater environment for its lobster booty. Claw tension is applied by air pressure, and the plastic arms wrap around a lobster’s body, functioning more like a basket that can gently lift the catch. This design feature prevents the crane’s claw from puncturing a lobster’s body, which itself is protected by a hard shell. Designed by a marine biologist, the tank is engineered to preserve purity. That environment is controlled by a state-of-the-art chiller and filter system that Pappas said is better than most lobster pound tanks used by restaurants and seafood shops.
“Our distributors are required to go through a training program so they know how to properly maintain the machine and handle lobsters,” Pappas said. “The machine is very user-friendly and we only use top-of-the-line parts, components and materials for its fabrication.”
The lobster vending machine was designed in 1996 by Advanced Games & Engineering (Ft. Lauderdale, FL), which went out of business several years later. The idea behind the machine is to entice restaurant customers to pay $2 for a chance to catch their own meal – to make the lobster dinner more sporting, so to speak.
Ernie Pappas, Nick’s grandfather and a former distributor of the AGE device, took over manufacturing, sales and service for the lobster machine business in 2001. To date, Lobster Zone Inc. has deployed more than 300 of its improved models. It employs 20 people and is capable of building 30 units a month at its Florida facility. Information on the Lobster Zone crane can be had at (407) 814-8440.